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Akagera National Park

Zebras in Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park could scarcely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is archetypal African Savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland.

Akagera is, above all, big game country! Herds of elephant and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a leopard, a spotted hyena or even a stray lion. Giraffe and zebra haunt the Savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the handsome chestnut-coated impala, but also the diminutive oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland.

Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Pods of 50 hippopotami grunt and splutter throughout the day, while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape.

Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high duetting of a pair of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways. Lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork – the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds.

Animals currently found in Akagera National Park

The game on an Akagera safari includes most of the usual plains species. Impala and topi (known as tsessebe in Southern Africa) seem to be dominant, with eland, oribi, Masai giraffe, Defassa waterbuck, reedbuck, bushbuck, sable and roan antelope also present. Burchall’s zebra, hippo and crocodile are commonly seen whilst game viewing; buffaloes are more prevalent in the north as are elephants, although more restricted.

One elephant in particular is well-known across Rwanda, having been semi-habituated when younger. Mutware is the grumpy old man of Akagera – at 50 years old, he can be calm but can also be anti-social and your guide is likely to change direction should you encounter him on a drive.

Birds of Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is especially good for birding, with over 480 species attracted by its diverse habitat. Savannah birds and raptors are prevalent and several endemic species such as the red-faced barbet are often seen.

Short boat trips are available on Akagera’s lakes which will give you the opportunity to get close to the plentiful water birds including numerous African fish eagles, marabou stork, crowned cranes, open-billed stork, cormorants, herons and egrets. If you are lucky you may even get to see the elusive shoe-bill stork.

Safari trips to Akagera National Park

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